12 August 2018

Zimbabwe: Expired Goods Flood Harare

Photo: The Financial Gazette
Vendors in Harare (file photo).

Expired goods, including food items, are being sold openly on the streets of Harare, a situation experts say poses a serious health hazard to citizens.

An investigation by Standardbusiness revealed that most of the products were being sold on the informal market in Harare, mostly at lower prices than in reputable supermarkets.

Products such as instant porridge, dairy products, tomato sauce and biscuits that are being sold on the streets have passed their sell-by date.

The merchandise is mainly imported from neighbouring South Africa.

Cheese and other milk products whose expiry date was January 2018 are still being sold to unsuspecting customers. There were also biscuits and baby formula products that expired three months ago.

"People love these products," said a vendor when asked why he was selling expired goods.

"It is only you who is concerned about the expiry date. We make a huge killing out of these products despite their state."

Some vendors said they were getting the goods from wholesalers who offered huge discounts for expired products.

"We get these products from wholesalers downtown," said one vendor.

"They normally put these products on sale a month before they expire.

"So after buying in bulk we normally fail to finish our stocks before the expiry date passes."

Consumer Council of Zimbabwe executive director Rosemary Siyachitema said the consumption of expired products posed serious health hazards.

"It is a fact that dairy products are conduits of bacteria. It is a very serious health issue as it poses a health hazard," she said.

"That's why we have been pushing for consumer education, urging consumers to always check the expiry dates of the foodstuffs that they buy because their impact on health can be damaging."

Siyachitema said the passing of the Consumer Protection Bill would empower the council to criminalise such activities, adding that the municipal police should be acting on that.

"On the other hand, I don't think the municipal police are doing their job," she said.

"This is happening on the streets, which fall under their jurisdiction.

"On our part, we are pushing for the enactment of the proposed Consumer Protection Act, which we will use to criminalise such behaviour at law."

Edgar Munatsi, a medical doctor, said eating expired food posed a serious risk to consumers.

"Though some expiry dates relate to product taste, in some cases eating expired food triggers food poisoning," he said.

He said one obvious sign of food that was past its expiry date was the growth of moulds.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers president Denford Mutashu said wholesalers and retailers were not to blame for the influx of expired goods.

"The allegations of supplying vendors with expired goods are unfounded and baseless and should be dismissed with the contempt they deserve," he said.

"In short, vendors should simply evacuate from the streets.

"That they are selling expired goods cannot be blamed on wholesalers or retailers.

"The vendors have no proper storage facilities and now the CBD of Harare, for example, is littered with perishable goods sold from pavements."

Labour and Research Institute of Zimbabwe economist Prosper Chitambara said the proliferation of expired goods on the market was an indication of economic decay and low levels of per capita income.

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